Our dad was born on Feb 2 1935. He lived to be 86 years old and outlived almost all his contemporaries. Here is what we loved and saw in him.
Harold came from the deep south and was raised in Fairfield Highlands Alabama. He came up in an area and in a time where happiness was optional and survival was paramount. He lost his mother at a very young age and as he grew up was raised by his sister Jane and Brother Dan. With Steel as the primary industry in Birmingham, and mainly blue collar jobs at hand, he became a hard worker and was No Stranger to the Rain.
Coming from a hands on southern environment, our dad was very construction and mechanically oriented. He built several houses in his lifetime and was quite adept at architecture, laying brick, building walls, pouring a slab, and hammering a nail with one hit. He could also see things mechanically and make them come to life, mostly out of necessity.
Changing the oil, fixing dents, servicing brakes and rebuilding a carburetor were not outsourced in those days. He did all that stuff himself and with us in tow to hand him wrenches, we got quite the education.
Very logical and capable of complex reasoning, he could do math in his head and could estimate things it would take others hours to figure out.
Harold had a great memory and his speech was full of imagination and detail. He was a Story Teller and could carry a room during holiday gatherings and business parties. Frequently he would step into a crowd and demand their attention while we wondered “what the heck is he about to say?” He would inevitably tell a witty, relevant story that was full of hook settings, pauses, and impactful delivery. His Story Telling was one big part of his ability to influence and sell his ideas.
Sporting James Dean looks and a Robert Conrad Smile, he was the first sales person to ever sell a million dollars at LD Brinkman and received many awards for his salesmanship. Kellie, Allison, and Mike received the gift of articulation and verbal skills from him, as getting to the point and making good arguments were part of the family culture.
With his southern roots, he was grounded with humbleness and empathy and was very aware of how he treated others in business dealings. He never stepped on anyone to get ahead. Unwilling to play the corporate game, he was a straight shooter and did not play politics. One of his favorite sayings was “the rabbit runs in circles”, which is another way of saying what goes around, comes around. We admired his integrity in this area.
He Never Sold Out!
As a family we didn’t have everything we wanted but we did have some cool toys! It seemed that as Harold would find something he was interested in (a go Kart, Motorcycle, Car, Bike etc.) Magically one of the kids would receive it for a birthday gift or Christmas present. At 6 years old Mike got a Yamaha 60 and at 5 years of age Kellie got a 100 mph Go-Kart. If that’s not selling I don’t know what is! Sorry Betty.
Family, Football, and Food. These were a few of his favorite things. Tough call on if Family or Food would take the lead, but man he loved them both. Betty cooked him southern meals to the end and he would savor every bite with grunts and moans on the quality. “Man those are good groceries” were usually a good sign Betty had hit the mark. Chicken and Dumplings, Steak, Pork Chops, Chicken Enchiladas were a few of his favorites.
So if he had it rough growing up, the story gets much better the last 40 years as he spent those stone cold sober, and …… HAPPY. He spent those years, mentoring, loving, and encouraging his grand kids. He loved his kids, grandkids, Betty (his wife of 64 years) and his dog Bandit with all of his heart.
And if you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else, I would say that Harold learned to do that too. He was content just spending time with people, visiting with people, and enjoying the events of the day. He found himself entertaining and with his imagination could recall colorful life events and fantasize about places he would like to go or live, even though he would likely not do many of them.
The older he got the sweeter he got. In the final years, he took a lot of bullets from a health perspective but Betty saw that he got the best care. She spoiled him as long as she could until her health gave way. We knew when she passed that Harold would struggle without her, but with Allison there 24/7 and Kellie not far behind, the spoiling continued. He was so nice to be around that no one seemed to mind all the sacrifice. His quick wit, empathy, memory, and appetite lasted to the end. He just got sweeter and sweeter with nothing but love and joy bubbling to the top. He was a Charmer!
In the end, he was able to do what many are not able to accomplish. Love himself and find inner peace. As he embraces the Lord now, He Leaves a legacy of 3 Children, 10 Grandkids, and 3 Great Grandkids that all learned a great deal from this beautiful man.
…….And that’s what I like about the South!